Nigerian social media influencer, Ramon Olorunwa Abbas popularly know as Ray Hushpuppi, has made his first court appearance in the United States where he is facing criminal charges of money laundering.
The 37-year-old accused who is also referred to as ‘Hush’ was transferred from the United Arab Emirates where he was arrested to the U.S where he allegedly defrauded a number of people.
The Central District of California branch of the U.S. Attorney’s Office has slapped Hushpuppi with charges of conspiring to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from business email compromise (BEC) frauds and other scams, including schemes targeting a U.S. law firm and a foreign bank.
Hushpuppi’s alleged criminal activities transcended beyond businesses and individuals in the U.S to include a Premier League football club in England.
Although the name of the club was not mentioned, the accused attempted to steal a whopping £100 million pounds from the said football club.
Hushpuppi made his initial U.S. court appearance on Friday in Chicago, and he is expected to be transferred to Los Angeles in the coming weeks.
According to an affidavit filed with the complaint, Hushpuppi “maintains social media accounts that frequently showed him in designer clothes, wearing expensive watches, and posing in or with luxury cars and charter jets.“
“The FBI’s investigation has revealed that Abbas finances this opulent lifestyle through crime, and that he is one of the leaders of a transnational network that facilitates computer intrusions, fraudulent schemes (including BEC schemes), and money laundering, targeting victims around the world in schemes designed to steal hundreds of millions of dollars..”
The court documents named Hushpuppi’s schemes as often involving a computer hacker gaining unauthorized access to a business’ email account, blocking or redirecting communications to and/or from that email account, and then using the compromised email account or a separate fraudulent email account to communicate with personnel from a victim company and to attempt to trick them into making an unauthorized wire transfer.
That scheme is said to be one of the most difficult cybercrimes encountered by U.S. law enforcement officials as they typically involve a coordinated group of con artists scattered around the world who have experience with computer hacking and exploiting the international financial system.
The affidavit alleges that Hushpuppi and others committed a BEC scheme that defrauded a client of a New York-based law firm out of approximately $922,857 in October 2019.
Hushpuppi and co-conspirators allegedly tricked one of the law firm’s paralegals into wiring money intended for the client’s real estate refinancing to a bank account that was controlled by Abbas and the co-conspirators.
The affidavit also alleges that Hushpuppi conspired to launder funds stolen in a $14.7 million cyber-heist from a foreign financial institution in February 2019, in which the stolen money was sent to bank accounts around the world.
Hushpuppi allegedly provided a co-conspirator with two bank accounts in Europe that he (Hush) anticipated each would receive €5 million of the fraudulently obtained funds.
If convicted of conspiracy to engage in money laundering, Hushpuppi would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison